A-Z Index
More Resources



How to get a test

If you have health insurance, the best option is to contact your doctor or health plan to get tested. Doctors and health plans are responsible for providing free COVID-19 testing to patients assigned to them. See more below.

If your employer or school requires a test, go through your workplace or school to get tested. They may offer free tests.

If you do not have health insurance, don’t worry. There are many ways to get free tests in LA County.

Visit a testing site
Los Angeles County

  • County-run facilities
    • If you don’t have health insurance, you can get a free COVID-19 test at a Public Health Center Nurse only clinic regardless of your immigration status. If you have insurance you will need to provide insurance information.
    • Testing is available for children of all ages
    • PCR and antigen tests are offered.
    • For locations and hours visit ph.lacounty.gov/chs/NurseClinic.pdf (Spanish).

  • Health center or pharmacy
    Visit Community-Based Testing Sites for COVID-19 webpage to find low or no-cost testing.
    • If you don’t have health insurance, the provider may ask you to enroll in a government program so that they can get reimbursed for the cost of the test.
    • If you have insurance, you may need to provide insurance information.
      • If you are unable or unwilling to provide insurance information, some sites may charge a sliding scale fee.

Many pharmacies offer free COVID-19 tests. Visit their website or call to check if they require an appointment or charge fees. For information on independent pharmacies, visit doineedacovid19test.com.

Get free test kits

With these self-tests, you collect the sample and do the test yourself. If the test is past its expiration date, it may still be good to use, learn more.


  • By mail from Public Health - for people who are age 65+ or unable to leave home
    People who live in LA County who are age 65+ or unable to leave home can request two free tests. The tests are shipped within 5 business days.

  • In your community
    Many food banks, senior centers, and other local organizations offer free test kits for pick-up.
Medical or Medicare card

  • At a pharmacy with your Medi-Cal or Medicare card
    Get the Medi-Cal or Medicare card(s) for each person in your family. Show the card(s) to the pharmacist at the counter where prescriptions are dropped off. You can ask for 8 free at-home COVID-19 tests for each person each month.

  • Using other health insurance
    Most people with a health plan can get up to 8 at-home tests per month for each person on the plan. There are several ways to get tests using health insurance including:
    • Get the tests mailed to you.
    • Pick up free tests at a pharmacy.
    • Buy a test from a pharmacy or other retail store and save your receipt. You can submit your receipt and get paid back for all or some of the cost. The test must be authorized by the FDA. A list of FDA-authorized home-tests can be found here.

Call your health plan or visit their website for instructions.

For more information, visit the CMS webpage How to get your At-Home Over-The-Counter COVID-19 Test for Free.

Contact your doctor or health plan

If you have insurance, your health insurer is required to cover the entire cost of testing if a doctor orders the test. You do not need to have symptoms to request a test.

Insurance companies may not cover COVID-19 testing if done as part of an employee return-to-work program. If your employer requires a test, go through your job.

Los Angeles County

If your child has symptoms, it is best to get a test from their doctor or local health center. If you need help finding a doctor, call 2-1-1 or visit 211LA. You can also find a health center near you at HRSA.gov

Many County-sponsored sites test children of any age. But check before you go.

The age limit for testing children at different pharmacies vary:

If you plan to use an antigen test, check the box for the age limit.

Types of tests

There are different types of COVID-19 tests.

Viral tests are swab or saliva tests that look for current infection. The main types are antigen tests and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests.

  • Antigen tests are rapid tests that give results in 10-30 minutes. Most self-tests are antigen tests. Antigen tests are not as good at detecting the COVID-19 virus as PCR tests, meaning you might get a false negative result. For this reason, the FDA recommends repeating negative antigen tests.
  • PCR tests, also called nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs), are more likely to detect the COVID-19 virus than antigen tests. They are often collected by a healthcare provider and sent to a laboratory for testing. It may take 1-3 days to get results.

Antibody tests are blood tests that look for past infection. They are not used to diagnose a current COVID-19 infection. See CDC antibody tests.

For more information, see CDC COVID-19 Testing: What You Need to Know.

When to test

Key times to get tested:

Testing may be helpful in other situations as well. For instance, consider testing before an event or before visiting someone at higher risk for severe illness. If you have been in crowded poorly ventilated spaces without a mask, such as during travel, consider getting tested. By getting tested, you can make better decisions about your health and understand your risk of spreading COVID-19.

See CDC COVID-19 Testing: What You Need to Know for information on when to test, choosing a test, and interpreting your test results.

How to use a self-test

Video also available in Spanish and American Sign Language (ASL). Manufacturers' instructional videos are available here.

  • Check the expiration date. If an antigen self-test is past its expiration date, it may still be good to use. Follow the instructions below to see if you can still use the test.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s step by step instructions exactly.
    The instructions are in the test kit box. They include how to interpret the test results.
  • Keep all parts of the test kit out of reach of children and pets before and after use.
    Supervise children when testing. The chemicals and small parts can cause harm if they are used incorrectly.
  • Make sure that you understand your test results  - read the results section on the instructions that come with the test. If you get a negative result follow the recommendations for repeat testing.

For more information on home test kits, visit the CDC self-testing website.

How to check if you can use the test beyond its expiration date
  • Most at-home tests can be safely used past the date on the box. Check the FDA’s At-Home COVID-19 Test page to see if the expiration date of your test kit has been extended. Note, the expiration date on the box is printed as year- month - day. For example, 2022 11 20 means November 20, 2022.
  • If the extended expiration date for your test kit has passed, get a new test kit. If you have to, you can use an expired test until you can get new ones, as long as the control line is working.
    How to make sure the control line is working:
    • After you do the test, check that the control line is visible.
      • The color should match the color stated in the instructions.
      • If the control line is not visible or the color of the line is different than in the instructions, it is invalid. Do not use the results of this test. Take a new sample and use a new test from a different box.
      • If the control line is visible and the color of the line is the same as in the instructions, the test is good to use.

      test exmaple

      Download or print these instructions: English | Spanish

Icon: Get Adobe Reader
Adobe Reader

Note: PDF documents on this site were created using Adobe Acrobat 5.0 or later. Document functionality may be reduced if you are using an earlier version (4.x or less). Get the latest version of Adobe Acrobat.

Public Health has made reasonable efforts to provide accurate translation. However, no computerized translation is perfect and is not intended to replace traditional translation methods. If questions arise concerning the accuracy of the information, please refer to the English edition of the website, which is the official version.

Los Angeles County Seal: Enriching lives through effective and caring services